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‘He’s been exceptional’: Sam Cane’s assessment of rising star Emoni Narawa

By Finn Morton
Emoni Narawa of the All Blacks runs through drills during a New Zealand All Blacks training session at Mt Smart Stadium on June 30, 2023 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Ahead of the All Blacks’ first team naming of the year, there was plenty of interest and intrigue surrounding the direction of Ian Foster’s side ahead of The Rugby Championship and beyond.

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With more than half-a-dozen bolters travelling to South America – including exciting talents Cam Roigard, Dallas McLeod and Shaun Stevenson – fans wondered if any players would debut in black this weekend.

But, as revealed in the early hours of Friday morning in New Zealand, Ian Foster and the selectors have only named one debutant in the matchday squad to take on Los Pumas in Mendoza.

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Following a breakout Super Rugby Pacific season with the Chiefs, winger Emoni Narawa will run out in the No. 14 jersey at Estadio Malvinas Argentinas.

Narawa finished the season in the top ten for tries scored by any player with eight, and was also among the leaders for line breaks, defenders beaten and metres carried.

All Blacks captain Sam Cane, who plays at Super Rugby level alongside Narawa at the Chiefs, said the debutant-to-be has been “exceptional” this season.

“Really proud of him,” Cane told reporters on Friday. “He’s a quality man and he’s been exceptional for the Chiefs all season.

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“I know him and his family are extremely proud and just looking forward to seeing him get out there and do his thing.”

The All Blacks have established a heated rivalry with Los Pumas over the last few years. Following a run of 29-conescutive wins, the New Zealanders were beaten by Argentina in 2020.

That result shocked the world, but was a sign of things to come.

Argentina have gone on to beat the All Blacks in New Zealand, and also defeated England at Twickenham last year.

This is a team who, under the guidance of coach Michael Cheika, are very much on the rise.

“We know what it means to play against New Zealand in Argentina and what team they are, but we are focused on us,” Los Pumas replacement Santiago Grondona said.

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“We had a great week in which we prepared very well and we hope that everything will come out on the pitch tomorrow.

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“We trust in our team and the most important thing is that we are united.

“We beat them twice and we know how to do it and it will depend on how we feel tomorrow. Let’s go for another victory.”

The highly anticipated clash between Argentina and the All Blacks in Mendoza is set to get underway at 7.10 am on Sunday morning (New Zealand time).

Argentina has never beaten the All Blacks on home soil, but are eager to rewrite the history books once again in front of a vibrant Mendoza crowd.

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